- Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood questions why military rulers back the prime minister
- Military rulers respond, calling the group's claims "baseless" and "unacceptable"
- The military has held most power in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak's ouster
- The Muslim Brotherhood earned a majority of seats in parliamentary elections
Egypt's military rulers slammed as "baseless slander" recent criticisms from the popular Muslim Brotherhood, saying Sunday that it was wrong to question its intentions regarding the "integrity" of upcoming elections.
The statement was a rare and charged public response from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which claimed that in the past it refused "to comment on these lies, out of its belief that the great Egyptian military's status is above verbal jousting with a faction or group."
The military leaders said they will "spare no effort to pass through this tough stage."
On Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood criticized the functioning of Egypt's government and the fact that "executive power remains in the hands of the Supreme Council and the Cabinet" of Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, even after the elections of a new slate of legislators.
"Although the Ganzouri government had its chance ..., unfortunately it failed even more disastrously, more spectacularly than previous governments," the Muslim Brotherhood said in its statement.
The group then singled out the Supreme Council for "absurdly" supporting Ganzouri despite calls for his resignation.
"(This) raises obvious questions about the secret behind clinging so tenaciously to losers and evident failures. Is it a desire to abort the revolution and destroy the people's belief in their ability to achieve their goals? Or is there an intention to defraud or influence the forthcoming presidential election?" the Muslim Brotherhood asked rhetorically.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party gained a majority of seats in parliamentary elections earlier this year. But since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak -- and in advance of the election later this spring to select the country's next president -- much of the political authority in Egypt has rested and still rests with its military leaders.
The Supreme Council fired back in its own statement Sunday, saying, "Attempts to question (our) intentions regarding the integrity of the coming presidential elections and the popular referendum on the Constitution are mere baseless slander."
The military leaders argued that they "planned and carried out last year's legislative elections with a transparency that was acclaimed by everyone." They said that this shows their commitment to having Egypt's population freely decide the nation's political future.
"It is unacceptable to talk about threats to challenge the constitutional legitimacy of the parliament," the Supreme Council added.
The military leadership expressed faith that Egypt's citizens recognize their efforts and their magnanimous intentions over the tumultuous period leading up to and since Mubarak's exit.
"The Egyptian population knows well who protected its dignity and pride, and who always put the people's best interests before anything else," the military leaders said. "Some falsely believe that they can pressure the armed forces and the Supreme Council with the intention of making them abandon their national mission to rule the country during the transitional period."